A complete guide to Form E
We consider what a Form E is, why it is important and answer some frequently asked questions about how to complete this.
When a marriage or civil partnership breaks down, it is important to also resolve financial matters with a financial court order.
Negotiating a solution can be achieved in a number of ways such as:
- Reaching an agreement directly with your partner
- Negotiation through solicitors
- Court proceedings
Regardless of what approach, or combination of approaches you take, it is important that both parties understand the finances available. It is advisable to obtain full and frank disclosure and this is often done by way of a Form E.
What is a Form E?
A Form E is the document required by the court in the event one party applies for a financial remedy. Even if you and your partner are amicable and do not intend to enter into court proceedings, it is recommended to use this form as it covers all aspects of your finances, and so avoids the risk of omitting something which you may have forgotten or failed to consider. This approach also means that in the event court proceedings are issued, you have already completed the Form E and will simply need to update this. Forms E are also used regularly in mediation.
Why is a Form E important?
In order to allow yourself the opportunity to make a fully informed decision about a financial settlement, and to allow the court to make any order in relation to your financial settlement (whether at a hearing or in relation to an agreement you have reached together), a clear understanding as to both parties’ assets and liabilities is required. This is to ensure that the settlement is fair and provides for you, your partner and any children you may have.
In addition, it is always recommended that parties take legal advice to check that the terms of any agreement or proposal are reasonable. Your solicitor will need to have details about both of your financial positions in order to advise you as to what a suitable proposal will be or whether an agreement you have reached is fair.
5 top tips for completing the Form E
1. Stay calm!
The Form E is 28 pages long and can at first glance seem very overwhelming! However, this form has been created to address every possible scenario and therefore it is likely that many sections will not apply to your situation and can be left blank by simply stating ‘not applicable’.
2. Start early
It is important that supporting evidence is attached to the Form E and this can sometimes take a while to obtain. You should therefore start collating these documents as soon as possible to prevent any delays.
3. If in doubt, include it
It can be difficult to know what to put in a Form E, especially in the narrative boxes later on in the form. If you are unsure about what to put within the Form E, it is better to include everything. Your solicitor can then review this and tell you whether it is relevant or necessary at this time.
4. Keep a copy
If you have instructed a solicitor, they will retain a copy for their file. However, if you are dealing with matters yourself it is important to keep a copy of the Form E so you can recall what was included. You will likely have to refer back to this several times and the matter may take a while to conclude, making it difficult to remember what was initially said.
5. Keep going
If you are in court proceedings, you are under an ongoing duty to update your spouse as to any subsequent changes in your financial position. A Form E is simply a snapshot of your finances at any given point in time and any significant changes which occur after this should be disclosed to your partner.
Frequently asked questions about the Form E
I don’t want to go to court, do I still need to complete a Form E?
Although it is not compulsory if there are no court proceedings, it is recommended that you both complete a Form E to ensure that you have a full understanding of each other’s assets and liabilities. This will make reaching an agreement much easier and you can both be confident that you have entered into the agreement with a full understanding of the assets available.
I haven’t used this bank account for many years/it doesn’t have any money in it. Do I still need to disclose it?
Even if there are no funds in the account, you are under a duty to disclose everything in your name or in which you hold an interest. It is therefore important that this account is still included on your Form E even if the balance is £0.
Do I need to get my house valued?
You do need to have a good idea of the value of your home but at this stage a formal valuation is not usually required.
You can either estimate a figure in your form E, and subsequently verify it together with your former partner by approaching local estate agents for their views by way of a market appraisal, or obtain some market appraisals yourself to attach to your Form E.
Strategically there may be pros and cons of either approach and so do discuss with your solicitor.
Do I need to get everything in my house valued?
Household items such as sofas, white goods and tables are usually dealt with by agreement and so it is rarely important to obtain valuations for these items. You only need to consider valuations for expensive items such as pieces of artwork, antiques or expensive jewellery. Again, discuss with your solicitor if you are unsure.
Can I refuse to complete a Form E?
If court proceedings have been issued, then it is a legal requirement to complete your Form E. If you fail to do so, there can be implications such as costs orders being made against you or worse in the event of persistent breaches (fines and/or the risk of imprisonment).
If you continue to refuse to complete the Form E, a Judge will make inferences about your assets which may not be correct.
If your partner has suggested voluntarily exchanging Forms E outside of court proceedings, you can refuse to do so. However this will likely lead to your partner issuing court proceedings to compel you to provide the requested information. This will increase both parties’ costs and therefore it is usually in your interests to provide the information when requested.
What happens if I don’t have some of the documents required?
It is important to request copies of documents that you might not have at an early stage, such as pension CEVs.
If you are unable to obtain the supporting documents by the date you have agreed to provide your Form E, you may mark these as ‘to follow’. It is important that you then provide the documents as soon as possible. If these are not provided, your partner is able to raise a questionnaire which will likely include a question requesting the missing documents. This will increase both yours and your partner’s costs.
Do I have to disclose my new partner’s assets?
If you are dating someone new but have no intention of living with them or marrying them, you do not need to disclose any information in relation to their financial situation. If you are cohabiting or remarried (or intend to), you will need to disclose details of your partner’s income, assets and liabilities as far as these are known to you. Your new partner will not need to provide the same level of disclosure as you, a simple summary will suffice. Again, discuss with your solicitor if you are uncertain about what to do.
Can I hide assets from my partner by emptying my bank account or giving it to friends and family?
No — don’t do it.
It can be tempting to try and minimise the assets you have however there are serious penalties involved, including paying the legal costs of your partner, and causing the court to view your position in an unfavourable light. In most cases it can be easy to trace these transactions from your accounts and suddenly gifting a family member a large sum of money will always look suspicious!
If you need help with completing a Form E, contact our divorce lawyers.